So you decided that you are missing out on life and have the time to take on photography.
1. Get a camera. Borrow or buy from a friend or online. Get an inexpensive one new or used to start ($200-600). Find one on Ebay, Amazon, or Craigslist. For Canon, I suggest one of the older Rebel TXi models (i.e. T1i through T3i) to start out. The more recent models just cost more and have minor improvements over older models. Stick to a low-end model because higher-end models have more functions which could confuse a beginner at first with an exponential increase in price.
2. If you have the means, try to get just the body and get a separate lens. Besides the sites listed above, Adorama and B&H Photo sell new or used equipment too. Remember, just because you bought a lens does not mean you have to keep it. You can always resell it at a good fraction of the initial price as long as you keep it in decent condition. Other sites allow you to rent equipment. Try to sell the stock lens and get another lens. The stock lens is great for the average person but if you want to get better, you’ll need to upgrade. Your first lens should be the 50mm f/1.4 either by Canon or a third party. If you are low on funds, the 50mm f/1.8 should do. Generally third party lenses are less expensive than brand name lenses and nowadays just as good but the brand lenses retain more resale value should you decide to switch later on. I have no preference either way, both are great choices. This general purpose lens will train your thought process to become more like a photographer’s and is great for 80% of situations.
[In beginner’s terms, the “mm” is in reference to how much of the picture you get and how far away you need to stand. For example, the 50mm is great for portraits if you are standing about 2 meters away from your subject but also great for landscapes if you are standing far away. An 18mm will let you get a lot of landscape while a 200mm will let you get a great zoom on distant subjects. The “f/” is the f-stop which determines the amount of light let into a photo. The lower the number, the more light is let in and the more expensive a lens. The f/1.4 can take great shots under low light settings if flash is not desired and in situations in which you or the subject cannot stand still. The f/ on any lens can go very high and is not a selling point so these numbers are not usually listed.]
3. Read up, take courses, go practice. If your pictures do not turn out as you like or if you want to try something new, Google solutions. That simple.
4. Should you be loaded or have that much extra time, try out different lenses.
- Telephoto: These are the huge babies that weight 5-10 lbs for long range photography. I suggest the 70-200mm f/2.8 to balance the cost vs. zoom, speed, and % situations utilized.
- Wide Angle: These are great for landscapes and architecture inside smaller buildings. I would go with one somewhere around 18mm as not to overlap with another lens you probably already own.
- Macro: These are for shooting tiny objects such as insects. If you are serious about tiny objects, go for 1:1 magnification and longer range, such as the 100mm f/2.8, so you can stand far enough away not to scare away living creatures.
- Luxury: If you just got a bonus at work or a tax refund, try these out. Usually they are the most expensive lenses in the product lineup ($600-20,000).
Note: I generally stick to f/1.4-2.8 for any lens, no more, no less. My price range is $250-600 used or new.
5. Here are some useful accessories worth getting. I suggest Ebay for all electronics under $20, general rule of thumb.
- Battery Grip: Allows for easier maneuvering and extra battery storage (two instead of one battery)
- Second Battery and Charger
- SD Card
- UV filter: Protects the lens from the elements
- Lens Cap, both sides
- Lens Hood: Blocks out unwanted light and looks cool
- Screen Protector
1. Do not get lazy with zoom. Move your body to the ideal location and get the shot. If there is an object in the way, navigate around it.
2. The subject is the most important part of a photo. It should be perfect even if everything else is not. Make sure the subject takes up most or all of the space in the shot. You do not need that much background unless you are taking a landscape.
3. Focus on your subject. Make sure the green or red brackets focus on the subject before you “click”. The camera is not smarter than you. If the brackets are misaligned, then manually focus if needed. If you are still having trouble, you can also take multiple shots with slightly different focus and pick the best one later on the computer.
4. Hold still while taking the shot. For less chance of blurriness, use some type of support like a table or tripod.
5. It’s not the camera, it’s you. If your shots turn out less than ideal, 9/10 times you are doing something wrong. The camera is not broken unless you have had it for decades or dropped it frequently. Personally, my camera has survived multiple drops to this day so they are sturdy. Even entry level cameras can take amazing shots. Do not give up on trying to improve your shots no matter what.
6. Have fun doing what you are doing. Photography is not for everyone but can change individuals. I used to be only an inside-the-box thinker but photography has made me think outside-the-box so now I have the pleasure of utilizing both skills.
1. Lens and camera quality can be viewed on a bell curve. The mid-price ones are great for most individuals. Anything too inexpensive or too expensive are not ideal for most. Know what you can afford. Generally, anything over $250 is good enough.
2. Prime lens are great because it makes you think about the best way to get a good shot. They promote physical activity and make you look like a professional.
3. Personally, I think Canon is the best beginner brand for user friendliness. Other brands are great too, such as Nikon, from the reviews I have read but I started out with Canon and loved it. Whichever brand you choose, stick with it so you do not have a spend too much money since lenses can only fit one brand at a time unless you get adapters.
4. Read the instruction manual. There are a lot more options and variables on these babies than most people know.
5. Take your pictures in both JPEG and RAW if possible. JPEG is more compact and great for sharing on most websites. RAW is great for keeping the original quality and editing.